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It was 2012, Barça was living the best years in its history and Estrella Damm released one of its Catalan inspiring advertisements.
In Paris, a French girl tries to prepare a traditional dish from Catalonia for her Catalan partner —escudella— following her mother-in-law’s recipe. She explains how she follows it step by step until it’s done. It says like this:
“To make your mother’s “escudella”, you need: Half a pig’s foot, lamb breast, beef and half a chicken leg.
You let it boil in 5 liters of water. Add the chickpeas, carrot, turnip, celery, Swiss chard, a leek and half a cabbage. Let it boil for another hour and a half.
Add the potatoes, the black sausage and the “pilota”. Filter the broth. You add the “galets”. Fifteen more minutes.
And voila, it’ll be ready.”
Once escudella is ready, she invites her partner to taste it. He savors the first spoonful for a couple of seconds... and gives a lesson on the importance of the environment. The guy comments about it:
“It was good... but it’s not my mother’s. But, this is a great imitation. Maybe it’s because the vegetables aren’t from La Boqueria Market and the meat isn’t from Cal Rovira. I don’t know. Maybe you missed his years of experience, his touch... inimitable. Think about it.
It’s like all the teams in the world who are now trying to imitate Barça... Without players like Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Valdés... All of them, friends since childhood...
Can the work done for 30 years at La Masia be imitated? Can values be imitated? And the game philosophy? And the fans… who are not satisfied only with winning, who need to have fun also? Can the feeling of belonging to something bigger than a football club be imitated?
We are surrounded by little things that define who we are. And this is what makes us, completely, inimitable.”
The escudella in Paris won’t be like the Catalan one. Like Guardiola’s Barça, no other team will play. The great recipes, the wonderful game systems... can be copied, though the result will be different —better or worse— but it won’t be the same.
We can replicate the ingredients, the exercises… apply them in the same order, in the same amounts of time... but we can never replicate the context. Society will not be the same. Cultural constraints will be different.
In Paris I doubt that you can enjoy the same proximity and quality products that you have in Barcelona. An animal meat can be inflammatory or anti-inflammatory depending on how the cattle are raised, what they eat, and the diversity and quality of their forage. Elsewhere in the world they might demand you to win, but they won’t ask you to win in an aesthetic, beautiful, exciting way... like the Catalans do with Barça.
“The environment is one of the essential parts of a living being.”
“Is this good or bad?” The context will tell us.
Estrella Damm’s lesson is the same as that given by Mark O’Sullivan: There is no Copy and Paste Template. I wish it was as simple as: “if successful people do this and that… let’s do the same.”
If we were machines, perfect. The Mitsubishi Pajero is built and works just as well in Asia as it does in America. We are complex systems sensitive to everything that happens around us. This makes it impossible to establish absolute truths or proclaim universal recipes, exercises and methodologies.
Catalonia isn’t Paris, Helsinki or Japan. The development of a person throughout his life is linked to socio-cultural limitations. For example, the degree of rigidity of the culture —tight or loose— in which he lives, among many others. Training methods must be consistent with the socio-cultural context in which they are carried out. The Japanese player who has grown up in a rigid culture with strict standards of behaviour will find it more difficult to break the norm, to be creative... than the Brazilian player developed with more open and permissive social norms. Barça —the unarmed army of Catalonia— and everything it stands for isn’t Manchester City or Paris Saint Germain.
While you focus on copying exactly what the “successful” teams are doing elsewhere, you are moving away from paying attention to what your team and context needs to win.
The key isn’t to look for the “right” coach, exercise, technique, instructions... All these are means to achieve the true goal: meaningful learning. The context in which this goal is to be achieved will dictate the methods needed, what works and is good and what doesn’t. There is no Copy and Paste Template.
The clothing designer adapts to the customer’s gender, measurements, needs... to the types of clothing of the culture… and then the perfect piece for the client emerges. The best chefs master the art of adapting to the location, the ingredients available, the tradition and the customers.
As Taleb says, they don’t generalize the particular… because one size —or template— doesn’t fit all.
Martí Cañellas | Fosbury Flop
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